Monday, 30 July 2018

Avoiding pitfalls going cashless



It seems cashless payments are finally making a proper entry at festivals in Scandinavia aswell. This summer, we have had roughly a dozen RFID enabled festivals up here, which is approximately double from 2017, which then again realistically means, we are beyond the early adopter stage and already looking at this as a regular festival feature, just like the over-priced beer consumed in tens of thousands of litres every summer.

Reason why I am bringing up Scandinavia is not only because we are headquartered in Helsinki but also because we are used to paying for pretty much everything with our credit and debit cards hence one might think there is absolutely no need for such service over here. In addition to access control where technology smoothens the flow of people, reduces queues and virtually eliminates ticket fraud cases,  It seems festival visitors generally are happy with the cashless experience and as the benefits from production point of view for the promoters are obvious, I do not see a reason why this pattern would not grow and shape up bigger and better for another ten or so years.

As we are not directly involved in implementation of such services, but act as the manufacturer and provider of the wearables for events globally we have had an extraordinary unbiased view to what are the key things to look for when it comes down to choosing your provider, for both the wearables as well as the underlying software system.

On this post I will not go deep into do's and dont's of choosing the provider, but will focus on the reliability of the RFID wearable worn by the festival visitors. 




WEARABLES

Oh yes, those wristbands, usually with an ugly piece of plastic integrated. The plastic piece, which we call the Tag, on the most common festival wristband type is the smart part and one could call it a scaled down credit card, because, ultimately, that is what it is.

Depending on the system provider requirements, it may have similar security features than your credit card, and is used the same way as a credit card with near field communication feature, so on paper, reliability and usability should be as easy as using your credit card. Now, what could go wrong you may ask, I have never had problems with my credit card reliability, why should the tag on my wristband fail?

Hopefully it doesn't, but then again, there are thousands of small factories scattered around South-east Asia and China where one can have such product made, cheap, sometimes fast, and sometimes with the agreed specs, after all, they all claim to be the providers for Disney...

It was only less than ten years ago when we were still young and naive (and needed the money) and looking back, I admit, we had our situations with such providers. Dealing with such sometimes resulted in us still being young and naive but not having the money and on a few occasions not even the product we thought we’d ordered.

The difference between good and "good" can be huge: visually similar looking tags or cards may have a totally different life between the sheets of plastic, to mention but a few, there are different shapes to an antenna, some operate better than others. There are different methods of soldering the two parts (antenna and the chip) together, which is directly related to how good the tags actually is. There are different nominal frequencies to the same chip, so any big deviations from nominal reader frequency mean worse readability and worse customer experience. There are various methods of proof reading, which in other words mean your tags work or they don't and finally, there are different types of the same chip that do not perform well in all antenna configurations that again may lead into a bad customer experience and unhappy people..... and yes, before this gets too technical, things to keep in mind:

Make sure:

-that you get what you paid for
-that you get what you paid for in an agreed schedule
-that you get what you paid for in a fully functional form

and things to help you make sure everything goes smoothly

-your provider knows what they are talking about
-your provider has a history of successful deliveries of smart products
-your provider has a technological knowledge of such product
-your provider is involved in the manufacturing process of the tags one way or the other

It is not necessarily true that cheaper is by definition worse, but when it comes down to choosing a provider for payments and access control solutions, I would probably look at the details, ask around and make the right decision based on these.